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TO:               Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Curriculum Coordinators, and Special Education Directors (please forward to teachers of reading and mathematics in grades 3-8)

FROM:         Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:          August 11, 2005

RE:               Update on Grade Level Expectations and Related Modifications to the Maine Education Assessment

Key Points Covered in this Informational Letter:

In May of 2004, in Informational Letter #116, I shared information with the field on the development of Maine’s Grade Level Expectations ( GLEs) and our initial plans for building a State testing program that would respond effectively to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirement to test students annually in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8.   Since Maine’s Learning Results were founded on grade spans (pK-2, 3-4, 5-8, and 9-12), this annual testing requirement necessitated the creation of standards in years where Maine’s standards had none, in our case in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7.   Initially, our intent was to test only a small number of standards—the GLEs—in the “off years” but continue to test the full range of performance indicators in grades 4 and 8.   This letter explains why and how those initial plans have changed.

During the 2004-2005 school year, the Maine Department of Education conducted an extensive evaluation of significant aspects of the implementation of Maine’s Learning Results, including the MEA.   Several key components of the review were debated during the recent legislative session, were addressed in LD 1424, and have been summarized in Informational Letter #135.  In broad strokes, a number of mid-course adjustments have been made that are intended to provide relief to local educators by building a more streamlined, coherent, and manageable system.   It is against this backdrop that modifications to the GLEs and MEA have been developed.

The modifications outlined in this letter have come about as a result of conversations that began at least two years ago in the context of the MEA performance standards (or cut scores).   Based on advice from the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), we have approached the issue of reviewing performance standards by asking where the problem or problems might be:   in the test itself, in the degree of alignment between the standards and classroom instruction, or, ultimately, in the performance standards.   Each of those potential problem areas has or will be studied in separate strands of work.   Some parts were completed this past year.   Some will take place over the next school year.  

The review of the MEA took place under the broad guidance of both the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), who provided intensive review of recommendations and helped shape the eventual policy directions.   The review of the MEA included a pivotal conversation early in the 2004-05 school year with two national assessment experts, Rich Hill and Brian Gong of the Center for Educational Assessment, and Department assessment and senior staff.   Rich and Brian were instrumental in focusing the MEA review on a simple question:   Is the MEA design consistent with the current purposes that need to be served well by a State test?   The following purposes emerged from the subsequent discussion:

As noted above, the original plan for the MEA and off-year testing was to focus on a subset of the standards (the GLEs) in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7, then test the entire set of standards in grades 4 and 8.   When held against the clarified purposes for the MEA listed above, however, that design did not align well, thus the redesign of the MEA was launched.

Beginning with the 2006-07 MEA, to be administered in the spring of 2007, the test in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 will include items on a consistent subset of Grade Level Expectations ( GLEs) to provide more seamless and useful data on school and student improvement over time.   This includes the “enhanced set” of GLEs (which are posted at the embedded link below for comment) and a focused, smaller set of performance indicators to be included for MEA testing in grade 4 and 8.   Taken together, then, the enhanced GLEs and the related performance indicators in grades 4 and 8 will form the basis for the annual reading and mathematics tests.   We will refer to the entire testing program as the Maine Education Assessment (MEA).   In the 2005-06 test, items based on the revised GLEs will be field tested on the MEA in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7 but will not be used for student scores or for school level purposes, such as AYP.

Since the original GLEs were developed with a different purpose in mind, they have been reviewed and expanded in number (by roughly 15-20%) to provide a more effective basis for monitoring achievement over the six-year grade span.   The review of the existing GLEs was initially conducted by Department content specialists, then reviewed with the panels of practitioners that participated in the development of the initial GLEs two years ago. Further comment from the field will help us ensure that the GLEs have been reviewed in a manner consistent with the original process; I encourage you to use the embedded link below to review the revised GLEs and provide feedback using the response form included on the web page.   In order to meet deadlines for test development, the window for responses to the GLEs ends on August 24th.

Web page for reviewing the revised Grade Level Expectations:

Department contacts for GLEs:  

Tad Johnston ( and Dan Hupp ( for mathematics; and

Diana Doiron ( and Patsy Dunton ( for reading.